Some friends of mine are training for half marathons! YAY! Go, gurls!
Then one admitted that after going for a 3 mile run, she couldn’t imagine running 13. Not because she physically didn’t think she could do it, but because it was so. damn. boring.
I get that. Training for a half is tedious, intimidating, and can get down right boring when you get into the long runs. It’s just you and your thoughts for a good hour to two hours. Running. Just running.
I never looked forward to my long runs, but I always enjoyed having done them. And honestly, I enjoyed the time alone – some of the only alone time I got most weeks. I consulted some running pals and put together some tips on helping pass the time on that long run. (Note: I consider a long run to be anything 6 miles or more.) It you’re struggling, try some of these out, and let me know what does and doesn’t work for you.
Awesome playlists. Don’t just run to music. Run to awesome music. If you’re running to the same old stuffy Top 40 crap you hear on the radio, you’ll get bored (unless Top 40 is your thing, then have at it!). Pandora has an Alternative Endurance Training station that’s good, but still plays too many popular hits for me (think The Killers, Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand…all good stuff, but the same songs that have been played on the radio 894 times). My rule is that it doesn’t have to be super-fast-pumped-up-beats music to get me going; I just have to really like it so my mind can wander. I have a station called Kick Ass Indie that I’ve carefully curated to be totally mine. No idea if that link will work for you, but you’re welcome to mooch off of it.
Podcasts. I’m not much of a podcast listener, but my friend Kimberly recommends the podcasts from Another Mother Runner, which you can download onto your phone or iPod. I’ll have to give it a try to see if that type of thing helps occupy my mind.
UPDATED TO ADD 6/17/14: I’ve recently become obsessed with the This American Life podcasts. While I am on hiatus right now due to my sciatica, I listen to them when I go for 2-3 mile walks, and they’re always entertaining.
Think. I do my best writing in my head when I’m running. Most of it never makes it out to the keyboard, but it sure helps pass the time. My friend Missy likes to pray on her long runs, both in the “Oh, Lord, let me survive these 8 miles” and in the truer sense of the word. Basically, if you’ve got something on your mind, think it out on the road. Or think about how awesome it’s going to feel to stop and pee when you get to the park around mile 7.
Use your imagination. Picture yourself flying through your next race, running your dream race, or running from a pack of mutant dogs in the Hunger Games. Embrace your inner Katniss and run for your damn life.
Fantasize. Get your mind OUT of the gutter, people. There are plenty of non sexual things to fantasize about on your long run. Like food. You’re about to blast a ton of calories (I average 120 calories per mile). Look I’m not here to judge. If day dreaming about R-rated things keeps you going, then by all means. Do it. But if you’re anything like me, you’re fantasizing about tacos.
Find a new route or location. Sticking with the same routine has it’s benefits. You know at which points you’ll hit certain mile markers. On the downside, you know how far it is to the next mile marker. I like knowing my route for the first few miles, but after that, I change it up. My sister-in-law and resident badass, Michelle, loves to get lost on her runs. It gives her an opportunity to discover new neighborhoods and kill a few miles admiring other people’s landscaping. If you carry your phone with you, you know you can always find your way home with your GPS.
Run unique routes. Plan your route around iconic locations. My friend Liz often runs around Lady Bird Lake, up to the Capitol, then through the UT campus and back.
Set small goals. This is for when you are really struggling physically or even when you’re just getting started. Make it to that next corner. Then to that tree. Then to that squirrel carcass in the road. Seriously, it helps. And you’ll be surprised how far you can push yourself when the steps don’t seem that big.
Change up your pace. Like the small goals, you can speed up until the next stop sign or mile marker. If you have to walk (no shame in that!), give yourself a set amount of time/distance to do so. My husband knows a guy who has run several marathons using the method of running 10 minutes, then walking for 1. On and off for 26 damn miles. Now THAT’S a long run.
Find a running buddy/join a running group. Running buddies will keep you going and even help pass the time with conversation. Here’s a secret though: I don’t have one. I prefer to run alone, but one of my favorite runs was a 9 miler with my husband. Not only was it awesome to run together and very satisfying to show him that I could do this, but it was great to see him accomplish his longest run as well, after originally planning to turn back at around 3 miles. If you do prefer to run alone, it’s still fun to change it up once in a while and run with a friend, even if they run at a different pace than you.
Running groups can also keep you motivated with meet ups and group runs. There are lots of friends to be maide in the running community.
People watch. I’m an avid people watcher. I’m always speculating about what someone’s story is. It helps occupy my mind when I’m feeling the monotony.
Find someone to pace you. If you’re in a semi crowded trail, pick a person running your pace and stick with them. Not in a creepy way. Just hang back and let them pace you. This works great in races too.
Think about pace. Thinking about your pace can make or break you. Some prefer to keep tabs on it so they know whether or not they are on track. Some prefer to ignore it so they don’t get discouraged if they are running slower than expected. Do what works for you.
Have a reward waiting. Running 6, 7, 8, 9 miles (or more!) is a huge accomplishment. I loved it when my kids met me in front of my house at the end of my long run. They were so excited to see me, and you’d think I’d have been gone for days instead of a couple of hours. But their sweet faces really lift my spirits and they are so proud of me.
Then go get some damn tacos.
Thanks to the following awesome runners/athletes/friends for their input on this post!
I don’t always write about running, but when I do, it’s kind of awesome.